Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hunters actually shoot these adorable Partridges

"Northern Bobwhite" Drawing; prints available
When I spotted the two birds, they were running alongside the chicken wire fence, hidden beneath the Brazilian pepper, the hedgerow, and the Spanish moss which draped from their lower branches.

The birds saw me and a soft chortle started up in their throats as they ran for a hole under the fence to escape. They were so fast on their feet that I failed to capture the details necessary for identification.

Checking my Audubon Field Guide later, I tried to piece together my impressions: stocky round bird, reddish brown feathers, unique head markings or Mohawk haircut; a chipping or swamp sparrow I wondered? Naw! Too small.

It was a year later in March before I saw another pair scurrying along the fence line. This time I got a good look before they slipped under the fence and disappeared in the dry pasture stubble. 

Turns out, they were northern bobwhites; members of the quail or partridge family and indigenous to Florida.
When the mating season begins each spring, coveys break up and mates build their own covered nests in the grass. In late summer, families join others to form a new covey until the next breeding season.

My husband and I saw the bobwhites almost every day for several weeks. One lusty fellow searching for a potential mate flew to the upper branches of a live oak and serenaded us with a “bob bob white.”

On days when we didn’t see the quails, my husband would whistle his own rendition of the song and we waited. Sure enough, an answering whistle told us where the bobwhites were located that day.

When the spring rains came early that year and flooded the grasslands, our bobwhites disappeared. My husband whistled to see if they had returned, but so far, there has 
been no answering call. We have waited four long years for their return. I miss those bobwhites!

Mike Barr has one of the most helpful videos on painting a rainy day scene:  

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking Pot Shots at Hot Shots -- is it Fair Game?

"Fuchsia Fantastic" will be my next painting; I'll adjust composition above --  a photo I took in Minnesota.
Have you noticed that in the arena of life, it is those that “haven’t made it” who throw hateful darts and arrows at those who have? Envy? Sour Grapes? Both?

This phenomenon was birthed by the Internet. A recent study said that this spiteful and destructive behavior was spawned by the “anonymity that the Internet provides.”

People concoct pseudonyms to hide their real identities, and then take pot shots at those they hate, dislike, or are jealous of. It’s one thing to harp at policy or behavior you disagree with; it’s quite another to defame, bully, bash character or reputation in the name of truth and justice or simply “getting even.”

Civility is not only a little used word its meaning from lack of use is almost meaningless. It is more fun (at someone else’s expense) to gang up on someone and hammer away at their faults and foibles. It’s not cool to “play nice” anymore. It’s hip to be first to notice a fault and to throw the first stone.

“Ah so,” the people say, "that’s true; and have you noticed that pussy pimple on his fat ass?”

Before you know it a barrage of negative ugly thought gains strength and is propelled in a slew of wicked words and e-mails intent on bringing the intended target down; down to the level of the insidious few who sling bad fortune and bad taste for fun.

How do we put a stop to this kind of mudslinging that in some cases has resulted in the death or suicide of the recipients? 

Some would have us outlaw “hate speech!”  But hate speech changes over time, depending upon which side you’re on? Should the government be the judge? Should the democrats? The Republicans? 
I loved the yellow sunflowers against the blue cloth, and the shadows! May paint this one, too!
Should women be the judge of hate speech if a man is the speaker? Should men be the judge if a woman’s speech is suspect? Should a thin person judge someone who is fat or vice verse? Should a government in the process of taking its citizens rights away accuse another government of Human Rights violations?

You can see where this triangulated thinking leads. We’d all end up in jail eventually. You can’t control everyone’s speech, and you certainly can’t control anger even with fines. In a free society, people have opinions and free speech not just for a few, but for all.

I'd like to paint this, too, but would anyone buy a painting of sea gulls?
Would that everyone was kind and tactful, but they’re not. Sometimes people get “hoof and mouth” disease, as my mom used to say when I’d speak out of turn. We can’t punish everyone. But we can use common sense. We can be more tolerant and forgiving. We can put our verbal and physical weapons away and try to salvage common decency and good sense.

My granddaughter, the cook, would be fun to paint!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Finding your own way in a crowded marketplace

"Reggae Night" acrylic on canvas
In case you haven't noticed, I took some time off from painting this past year. I did a few fun things, personal projects; but for the most part, I stayed away from painting sessions with my art league and the usual mad dash of competitions and shows except for those already scheduled. I needed space and time (plus I had 1 wedding and 4 funerals).

I felt I was placing quantity over quality. The pressure was piling on, and in order to meet deadlines, I was slapping paint without experiencing the joy. There were still a few things on my to-do list that I wanted to complete, and a few old canvases that I painted over. But for the most part, I laid my brushes aside.

I’m trying to reassess what direction I want my creative energies to take. I want to enjoy what I’m doing more and not take myself or my journey so seriously. If success comes in the process of seeking, I’ll be happy. If it doesn’t, then I’ve enjoyed the ride.

"Prayer Circles, mixed media on canvas
Success and achievement require sweat, blood and tears, but if we aren’t having a good time it shows in the end product. Balance is the key, and I felt I was off balance spending too much time in social media and promotion, and not enough time on inspiration and soul searching. I needed to explore my weaknesses and strengths, and what I wanted to accomplish.

Joy must be a part of the creative life or our “children,” our babies suffer. Cranking out paintings for the sake of producing something that may or may not sell is a losing battle. There’s a difference between honing your skills every day in the act of fusing your passion and love or just going through the motions because “you’re supposed to.”

Waiting for inspiration is not the answer either. It’s an excuse. The fear of failure can shake us to the core and cause us to “seize up” in a nervous frenzy. In order to create, we must be in the moment and love the simple pleasures of applying paint to canvas regardless of whether the painting brings us success or not.

Playing to the judges or the critics doesn’t cut it. If we manipulate the thought process to satisfy others without the passion, the result may be a skilled piece of work that is flat and lifeless.

"Fish Market" mixed media on canvas
In a local publication called: “Inside Gateway-Colonial,” I read an article in their Lifestyle section titled “Simple Ways to Find Deeper Meaning” Unlock what’s inside – passion, individuality, community – to connect with what’s important by BPT News Service.

The author said “A new movement is emerging, where people are pausing to find deeper meaning in everyday life. . . The theory goes that if a person recognizes and nurtures those activities they love most, they are better able to do what they’re great at in the world. . . Rather than getting swept away in a hectic schedule, try focusing on what truly matters.”

I realized that I was focusing on what mattered to the judges, to people in my art circles, and to the critics, rather than to my own gut feelings. I was allowing my insecurities to rule rather than my strengths.

In the busyness of doing, I’d lost touch with myself and what was important to me. I was blind to the things that make me unique and different. I was trying to ape what I thought others wanted instead of listening to my own drum beat. Sometimes we have to be willing to make mistakes in order to forge ahead in new and uncharted territory.

"India Rising -- the Lost" mixed media on canvas

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thiis Artist’s Heart is at one with the Earth

"Sand Crane Dreams" acrylic on canvas
I was a tomboy growing up. I preferred monkey bars or playing cowboys and Indians to playing with dolls. When my mother couldn’t find me, I was usually up a tree, literally. I viewed every tree as a challenge that must be conquered.

My favorites were the mulberry trees that grew near our street. I’d straddle a branch and stuff my face with unwashed mulberries until their semi-tart taste had satisfied my sweet tooth. When someone walked beneath me, unaware of my presence, I felt all knowing and powerful.

From up here, I could see into adjoining yards. I knew who was home and who wasn’t. It was a hiding place where childish secrets could be discovered and shared later when the time was right. It also gave me space and time to ponder the wonders of the world and my place in it.

"Beach Buddies" mixed media on canvas
In those days I often ran around in my underpants, especially on hot summer days. Once while helping my mother with the ironing, I burned an elongated triangle on my mid-section. That was the last time I ironed without being fully clothed.

The next day, dressed in a sun top and a pair of shorts, the burn now covered with a still-wet scab, I climbed a wide-spreading oak tree. By this time my legs were so long it was easy to step from one branch to another and scale to the highest gnarled branches.

In the process of climbing, I scraped my midriff against the rough bark peeling back the scab and revealing a seeping red sore. The pain was excruciating. I scrambled down so fast I turned my ankle when I hit the ground running for comfort and a bandage.

(My daughter, Paula's, poster she created for her art classes)
I once scaled a tree so high I was afraid to come down. My mother’s younger sister scolded me at the foot of the tree and demanded I come down the same way I went up. Although we were close in age, she was my aunt, and she loved to Lord that over me. If I didn’t do what she said, she was sure to tattle to my mother.

I don’t know what happened to the girl I once was? Later in life, I was afraid of heights. I wonder now if the scolding’s and threats I received put a fear in me that I later associated with heights?

At any rate, as a teen I climbed to the top of a water tank and then was afraid to descend the ladder and come down. This was the first time in my life I’d been afraid of heights. Later, I cured my fears by rock climbing, repelling and experiencing a zip line. I discovered that as long as I focused on the cliff (or my goal), I was unafraid.

(The mountains where I grew up)
I continue to love nature in all of its splendor. There’s nothing like the freshness of pine mingled with the smells of frying bacon and potatoes or fresh caught fish on a crisp morning in the mountains. I celebrate still the wonder of God’s glory in every sunrise and sunset. I rejoice as an artist in the finite beauty and detail that I’m privileged to paint.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Violets are Blue, or is it purple, or lavender?

An old song chimed:

“Lavender blue, dilly, dilly
Lavender green
If you were king, dilly, dilly
I'd need a queen.”

Now “lavender green” is a new one on me. This little ditty has had many variations since its creation as an English folk song and nursery rhyme dating all the way back to the seventeenth century. Various forms have been sung since the twentieth century.

“Lavender’s Blue” as some call it, has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 3483. Burl Ives's version first sung in 1948 was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Roses are red, violets are blue. . .

"Roses are red"
Roud #19798
William Wallace Denslow's illustrations for "Roses are red", from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose
The Rose is Red
The Violet is Blue
Sugar is Sweet
and so are You!

Written by

The question as to whether violets are lavender or blue may never be answered.

My mother loved African violets. She had several that continually bloomed. I gave it a shot as a young mother, but mine eventually died. I had a tendency to over water. The instructions said they like damp feet. In order to keep them “damp” I hovered over them, feeling the soil and stressing out about what that really meant.

My daughter Pam gave me an African violet plant for Mother’s Day last year. She said she remembered that I grew violets, but she may have been thinking of my mother. The photos in this blog will prove to her (and to myself) that I can actually grow them. I have a routine of once a week watering. The instructions say plastic pots are best, but all I had at the time was a clay pot.

So far things are working well. I water from the bottom only, never allowing water to touch the leaves. I’m also in the habit of clipping off any dead flowers, so the plant always looks fresh and new.

I’ve always adored flowers, but, unlike my mother, I don’t naturally have a green thumb. I’ve had to work at it. In fact, for many years I had arrangements of dried flowers and silk flowers adorning my tables.

Every room in my house was brightened with an array of cheery fake blossoms. My mother once called me “the flower lady.” Was she being sarcastic because they were all fakes? Perhaps. She’d be pleased to know that I finally figured out the right formulae of water, light, and temperature to grow and enjoy real plants. I guess I’m just a slow learner.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Balancing Act -- the Demands of Work, Family, and Personal Choice

Seafaring Pelican 
Sitting at the salon waiting for a haircut made me lament the amount of time it takes for pure “maintenance.” Not only do we spend hours keeping our body’s clean and our fingernails and toenails trimmed and polished, but we spend hours each week exercising, eating, and sleeping.

I know, I’m being anal (it’s what I do best!). The thing is where do we draw the line? Where do we find time to do what we love; to write, to read, to paint, to draw for me? Add to that composite the demands of a job and family and you get my point!

Great Egret Fishing, watercolor
The key is learning to use your limited free moments wisely. Snatches of time can be used for birthing ideas, drawing on a potential canvas, or jotting down a few words or sentences in the rush as they come to you. My best ideas are inspired by activities like driving, ironing, or fixing a quick meal. I suspect the flowing of fresh blood when I'm on all cylinders.

I keep a pen and paper handy in every room in my house. I have a moleskin notebook in my purse, in the car, and where I watch Television. I use them constantly, even on the go.

Pelican Pointe, acrylic on panel
As I was running errands today, I jotted down the word “maintenance” as an idea for this blog. Afterward, the movie “When Harry met Sally” flashed forward. The film is a timeless classic that illustrates beautifully the principle of high maintenance, and low maintenance. The crux of the matter is that we’re all high maintenance, only about different things.

I use a certain product that only Sephora sells. Another “must” is found at Ulta several miles away. If I were less picky, I might be able to compromise and save money on gas and time; but as I said, I’m high maintenance, at least about some things. Most of us want the best for ourselves, even though we could sacrifice and scrape by with something less. 

Normally, I hate to shop. Oh, I love to spend, but I hate to try on clothes. I’d rather order an outfit online and hope for the best than struggle in and out of sticky clothes on a hot muggy day in Florida.

Leap of Faith, 16 x 20 oil on canvas (Snowy Egret)
Choices. That’s what it’s all about. I would rather wear my grungy paint clothes each day than worry about shopping for a new outfit that I may wear some of the time. I really get into my groove when I’m slapping paint around. I’ve ruined more clothes thinking that I’ll take a few swipes at a canvas before running to a meeting or a dental appointment.

My stack of paint clothes has grown the past few months from two outfits to five. My husband considers that high maintenance. I say, do whatever it takes to keep on painting and keep on trucking to do what you love!
Sandhill Cranes at Twilight, mixed media on canvas

Friday, March 7, 2014

Grab a Brush and let the Healing Begin!

"Lady in Waiting" 11 x 14 oil on canvas
Why is art one of the most popular methods used in healing? We certainly don’t need more artists in the world. What is it about the practice of touching brush to canvas that heals the soul?

My conclusion is the “focus” that painting requires. The very act pulls you out of yourself and takes you on a journey of line, color, texture and form. Feelings are given life and anguish melts into fluid that is pushed and pulled into a heartfelt story.

(Work in Progress with edits)
There is beauty in the finished product. Discoveries are made about one’s self. Inner turmoil is released and anger spent. As paint flows, tears run. The horrifying and ugly are confronted and expressed. Unspoken words are visualized and controlled rather than running wild in the fear worn caverns of the mind.

Afterward the cleansed heart heals, the pain dissolves, and the artist is refreshed. Is it any wonder that people want to take up art to see what they’ve been missing?

That’s exactly how I began to paint many years ago. A friend, knowing that I was depressed and struggling with a growing family and a difficult marriage suggested I join her in a neighborhood class taught by an artist in her basement studio. I tagged along, not knowing what to expect.

It was love at first brush. I found my niche! And in the process, I lost myself completely in each canvas. My self-esteem blossomed, my coping skills increased, and I never looked back.

From my Garden, front walkway.
For some, healing begins with music. I met a wonderful woman who heals with her guitar and a song. She visits hospitals, rest homes and other areas where suffering is paramount. Her comforting melodies have helped terminal patients get a grip on their illness and passing. She has increased hope in the hopeless.
"Peace Plant"

We have all witnessed children with physical or emotional disabilities make great strides around animals such as horses and dogs. They overcome fears, gain self-confidence, and feel better about themselves. The warmth of touch and connecting is a key component.

Discover your passion and begin the healing!

Amarylis on my Linnai.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Symbols, Signatures, and Signs

An artist signing his painting.
Advertisers use symbolism to encourage viewers to relate to their products and help them remember. The purpose of these symbols is to “endear” the item or store to potential buyers. It seems to be working.

Who can forget Apple’s logo: the apple with the bite taken out of it, or Target’s red bull's eye, or McDonald’s golden arches. We look for these symbols on the highway when we want something to eat. We file these symbols away in our minds and think of them when it’s time to shop or to make a purchase.


On my morning walk, I saw a parked car with a small chrome fish on the trunk. Immediately, I recognized the owners as Christian, at least in name and desire to share their beliefs with others.

According to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes. The fish was formed from the Greek word: Ichthys. The lines for the word formed an actual fish.

According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger on the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current bumper-stickers and business-cards use of the fish hearkens back to this practice.

According to the Huffington Post, Religious symbols are a way to unite members of a common faith tradition, and to indicate to others the religious tradition they represent. Take their quiz and see how many symbols you can identify by clicking on the links above and below.

Artists place their signature on every painting. Some of them are unique and unlike any other. Sometimes a symbol is created that becomes that artist’s trademark; remembered and identified. Here are a few famous artists’ signatures that have become classics.

And who can forget the signs of the Zodiac. Even though many frown on the practice of using horoscopes or signs to predict life events, they are all around us and difficult to avoid. The use of these signs is condemned in the Bible, yet I’ve known many Christians who playfully peak at their daily predictions as they would read the funny papers and then quickly forget them.

Many famous people, even Presidents and their wives have been known to rely on their horoscope predictions for determining a good date or time for decision making. Personality traits are identified for each sign and almost anyone can see themselves in their birth month as we all share many human traits in common.

I am a Leo; my sign is the Lion
As a marketing ploy, having an identifiable logo or sign can promote your business. A trademark that people recognize or a name that evokes feelings of satisfaction is a real plus!